Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, June 16th, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Biden’s last preparations before meeting with Putin
US President Joe Biden is completing preparations for a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, demonstrating transatlantic unity over the past few days and discussing the upcoming summit with dozens of international leaders, Kommersant writes. The day before the momentous talks in Geneva, Biden participated in the US-EU summit, where he outlined the course of Western politics for the coming years.
In the EU, the American leader spoke about unity — the unity and stability of the Western bloc were demonstrated specifically before the Geneva meeting with the Russian president, the newspaper writes.
Biden also identified the new enemy of all progressive humanity - technological disruption that leads to anxiety. The best way to deal with this is to make the bloc’s economies grow together, Biden summed up. The agreement to end the "air war" over unfair competition between US company Boeing and its European rival Airbus was a real demonstration of this idea. A joint US-EU trade and technology council was also announced to develop standards for artificial intelligence, quantum computers, and biotechnology.
At the end of the summit, the EU and the US agreed to launch a format of consultations to coordinate their policy towards Russia. Biden left Brussels for Geneva, where he will meet with Putin. According to Axios, a dozen experts on Russia, including former associates of ex-President Donald Trump, were preparing Biden for the meeting. Not holding a joint press conference to not give Putin the opportunity to put forward any kind of new public proposal was among their recommendations.
Kommersant: Russia faces third COVID-19 wave associated with Indian variant
The third coronavirus wave has finally arrived in Russia, evidenced by a record increase in new cases — on Tuesday, 14,185 new cases were detected in the country compared to 13,721 a day earlier, Kommersant writes. The disease now has a more severe form, the authorities warn, pointing to the increased risks of getting infected for people aged 18-35 years. Experts associate the surge in incidence with new strains.
The fears are primarily caused by the Indian variant of SARS-Cov-2, which, in terms of symptoms, resembles a typical cold. People can catch it even after vaccination, but the risk of a moderate and severe course of the disease reduces 14-fold, experts at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology told the newspaper.
Experts explained that due to the mutations, a larger percentage of people with immunity to the virus is now needed to form herd immunity. According to the Director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Medical Research at the European University Anton Barchuk, "We know that it is possible that new strains are spreading faster, and a larger proportion of people who are immune to the virus in the population is needed. I would say about 70-80%".
Currently, 14,346,267 people or 9.81% of the population in Russia, have been vaccinated with two vaccine components. Earlier, the Ministry of Health set a goal stating that 60% of the Russian population should be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan ready to keep troops in Afghanistan
Turkey can maintain a military contingent in Afghanistan if the United States agrees to provide appropriate financial support, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the end of the NATO summit in Brussels. This promises to make the Middle Eastern country one of the main external forces in the Afghan arena, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. However, members of the radical Taliban movement (banned in the Russian Federation), who see it as a violation of peace agreements between the group and the United States, are still opposed to this scenario. For Washington, the presence of the Turkish military in the country is a chance to prevent a possible seizure of power by militants, while for Ankara, it provides an opportunity to gain a foothold in another region of the world, the newspaper writes.
It is possible that such a situation would suit the Russian side, which is interested in maintaining stability in the Central Asian republics bordering Afghanistan without the participation of the United States. Moscow has deep experience of military-diplomatic interaction with Ankara in various regions - from the Middle East and North Africa to the South Caucasus. Jointly, Russia and Turkey tried to resolve some problematic aspects of the Syrian and Libyan crises. The question is how the Turkish side will use its increased influence in the region. Erdogan has not always shown himself to be a reliable and predictable partner in relations with Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Research Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the Center for Contemporary Afghan Studies Omar Nessar noted that this option came out of fear of the military and political strengthening of the Taliban after the withdrawal of Western countries. The option involving Turkey may disappear if the group reconsiders its position and decides to compromise in the course of negotiations, the expert concluded.
Izvestia: Kiev tries to put forward demands to Nord Stream 2
Kiev is worried about the upcoming launch of the first string of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, Kiev is ready to allow the pipeline to be launched if Russia "de-occupies" Crimea and Donbass. At the same time, President Vladimir Zelensky complained that because of the pipeline, the Ukrainian army will be left without money. Experts told Izvestia that Kiev may indeed lose a lot from the project’s implementation. Its course of action, however, could be decided by the upcoming Putin-Biden meeting.
Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergey Marchenko said that the project would cost Kiev $1.5 bln a year. Head of the Ukrainian GTS Operator Sergey Makogon specified that the total losses would amount to $5-6 bln. According to him, the rise in gas prices will lead to an increase in the cost of Ukrainian exports, and the population will need more subsidies from the state to pay for gas.
Experts told Izvestia that the gas pipeline will have a serious impact on Ukraine. "In addition, pumping through Ukraine decreases every year in any case, and Russia seeks to send gas to Europe through alternative routes," member of the Russian Presidential Council on Interethnic Relations Bogdan Bezpalko told the newspaper. He added that Kiev is also losing its significance in global politics, the benefits that it could receive from its geopolitical position. "Finally, Ukraine is losing its gas transportation system. If it is not used, it decays," the expert said.
Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS Countries Vladimir Evseev told the newspaper, "Many things will be decided at the meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. If the leaders of the two countries agree on ‘red lines’ for Ukraine, then Kiev will stop raising the gas pipeline issue. If agreements cannot be reached, Zelensky will continue to talk about this at the international level, and the United States may try to reduce the project’s profitability".
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russian gas faces tough competition as US recovers shale production
The United States is increasing production of shale gas — natural gas production from major shale deposits will grow for the first time in recent months. The share of US gas on European markets is still small, but in the future, blue fuel from the United States may put serious competitive pressure on Gazprom's supplies, experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The Russian government also sees the danger — the strategic documents assume that after 2023 Russia may lose its leading position in gas exports to international markets.
The EU continues to increase supplies of US liquefied natural gas (LNG). According to Platts Analytics, more than 66 bln cubic meters of US LNG have been delivered to Europe since 2016, or an average of about 13 bln cubic meters per year. So far competition is minimal, but some experts believe that the US has great potential for growth in LNG production, as well as in Qatar. These two countries can seize Russia's leadership among the largest exporters," Director of the group for natural resources and commodities at Fitch Dmitry Marinchenko told the newspaper.
Some experts believe that it is too early to say that the US will get the Russian share in the European market. "LNG exports are limited by US liquefaction capacity," Finam analyst Sergey Kaufman believes. However, not everyone agrees with this opinion. "The latest data suggests a recovery in US shale gas production after the pandemic. This testifies to the growing demand and flexibility of the oil shale industry, which is able to increase production much faster than traditional forms of raw material extraction," Head of AMarkets Analysys Department told the newspaper. According to him, the possibility to increase exports will play the most important part in this gas war. "The story of opposition to Nord Stream 2 is indicative — the United States will push for the opportunity to become the main supplier of LNG in key markets, pushing Russia out," he said.